In Brief | Nation and World


Hornets announce name change to Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS — Hornets owner Tom Benson is changing his team’s nickname to the Pelicans and said the switch will create a bond with the city that could lead to a championship.

The Hornets announced Thursday they are going ahead with the name change.

The NBA still has to approve it, but Commissioner David Stern has said he wouldn’t object to any name Benson chose. The league is expected to expedite the change at the start of next season.

The new color scheme is blue, gold and red, a departure from the Hornets’ teal, purple, gold and white.

The Hornets have been in New Orleans since moving from Charlotte for the 2002-03 season, although they were relocated temporarily to Oklahoma City from 2005-2007 due to Hurricane Katrina. Benson, who also owns the Saints, bought the team last spring.

The nickname Hornets “didn’t mean anything to this community,” Benson said. “The pelican represents New Orleans, just like the Saints. They have incredible resolve. If they can do that, the team can do the same.”

The brown pelican is Louisiana’s state bird and has become identified with efforts to restore Louisiana’s coast, which has been damaged extensively by the 2010 BP oil spill and erosion from Katrina and other storms. Images of the pelicans covered with oil were plentiful after the oil spill.

The brown pelican was taken off the endangered species list in 2009.

Saints fire defensive coordinator Spagnuolo

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints have fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo after one season — a record-setting year in the wrong way.

New Orleans ranked last in the NFL in total defense and run defense, yielding the most yards (7,042) ever in a single season. The Saints went 7-9 this season and allowed 454 points; only Tennessee gave up more.

Head coach Sean Payton, who returned to work this week after a season-long suspension, announced Thursday that Spagnuolo was being released. Payton also fired secondary coach Ken Flajole.

“I personally want to thank Steve and Ken for their contributions during what was an unprecedented 2012 season,” Payton said. “Philosophically we are changing our defense to a 3-4 alignment and right now is the best time to accomplish this transition.”

Without Payton, who was suspended for his role in the Saints bounty scandal, and with linebacker Jonathan Vilma and end Will Smith in limbo for portions of the schedule while their suspensions were being appealed — and eventually rescinded — the Saints lost their first four games. They gave up at least 27 points 11 times, and surrendered 52 to the Giants, 44 to Carolina, and 40 to Washington.

Spagnuolo was the Rams’ head coach the previous three seasons, going 10-38.

Spagnuolo coordinated the Giants’ defense when they ended New England’s unbeaten season to win the 2008 Super Bowl.

Chelsea player criticized after ball boy kicked

LONDON — Just when it seemed Chelsea’s reputation couldn’t sink any lower, along came “Ballboygate.”

The Football Association’s disciplinary body will review the game after winger Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a 17-year-old ball boy while attempting to retrieve the ball near the end of a League Cup semifinal match against Swansea on Wednesday.

The Belgian winger has apologized to the ball boy — and will not face criminal charges — but will be handed a minimum three-match ban for violent conduct. The FA could increase the suspension in “exceptional circumstances.”

The European champions likely will face more accusations that its millionaire players are out of control, soon after the racism scandals involving John Terry, Ashley Cole and John Obi Mikel in 2012.

“There’s no defense for that,” former referee Dermot Gallagher said. “It was an extreme, but you can’t have that at a football match.”

The kick sparked a flurry of activity on social networking sites and induced imaginative headlines in British newspapers, such as “Ed Case,” ”Occupational Hazard” and “Boots of Hazard.” BBC radio has already been referring to it as “Ballboygate.”

Some ex-professionals sympathized with Hazard, who was attempting to get the ball into play quickly with Chelsea needing late scoring to force extra time. The match finished 0-0, with Swansea advancing to the final 2-0 on aggregate goals.

“I’m not saying its the correct thing 2 do but when in the heat of the moment u just want the ball,” Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar wrote on Twitter.

Martinez returns to Boston as assistant to GM

BOSTON — Former Boston manager Terry Francona gave Pedro Martinez a big hug along with some advice to help him in his new job as a special assistant to the Red Sox general manager.

“Now he’s going to have to be on time,” Francona needled his former pitcher on Thursday when the two were reunited at the annual dinner of the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

A three-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star who spent seven seasons in Boston, Martinez returned to the city where he had his best years. His role is still undefined — he has the same title as former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek — but Martinez said he would be willing to help with the pitchers, work in the minor leagues and generally be a friend to GM Ben Cherington.

“Varitek, Pedro — they are the Red Sox,” Francona said.

Source: Mets agree to deal with Marcum

NEW YORK — A person familiar with the deal tells The Associated Press the New York Mets and free agent right-hander Shaun Marcum have agreed to terms on a one-year contract.

The person said Thursday the contract is pending a physical. The person requested anonymity because the deal has not been announced. Several media outlets earlier reported the deal.

The 31-year-old Marcum fills an opening created when Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey was traded to Toronto. He’ll join a rotation with Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee.

Marcum went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA for Milwaukee last season in 21 starts. He missed time with an elbow injury. He also missed the 2009 season after having elbow-reconstruction surgery while with Toronto.

Marcum is 57-36 with a 3.76 ERA in seven seasons.

Castelli-Shnapir win pairs short program

OMAHA, Neb. — Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir have taken a big step toward their first pairs title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, easily winning the short program Thursday.

Castelli and Shnapir finished with 62.27 points, a whopping nine points ahead of Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay. The free skate is Saturday.

With defending champs Caydee Denney and John Coughlin out while he recovers from hip surgery, Castelli and Shnapir are heavy favorites.

The NHK Trophy bronze medalists lived up to the billing, skating the most energetic program of the day. Their triple twist was huge, and would compare with any of the top couples in the world.

Their only real flaw was on their combination spin, which was horribly out of unison.

The women’s short program is later Thursday.

From wire sources